By Jason Massad

Some guys buy a high-priced sports car to deal with a midlife crisis. Some might dream of quitting their jobs to travel the world.

David Tench, who turned 50 this year, said his big epiphany was a desire to be healthy and active into his 80s.

At 6-feet and weighing in at 265 pounds, the Chamblee architect knew that he needed to shed some weight. He was reading a neighborhood magazine that advertised a weight-loss program at the Cowart Family-Ashford Dunwoody YMCA and it sparked a change.

“I’ve been wanting to lose weight and needed to lose the weight and, really, I was looking for some motivation,” he said.

Lose weight at the Y
  • A free, six-month wellness program is being offered at the Ashford-Dunwoody and Buckhead YMCAs for people who are medically obese with a Body Mass Index of 35 or more.
  • Twenty to 25 spots are open in the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia Foundation study, which will enroll people through October.
  • The active research study allows participants free YMCA membership for the duration of the study. The facilities include exercise equipment, pools, indoor walking tracks and equipment specifically designed for larger people.
  • Other participant requirements include being age 21 to 60; no participation in a regular exercise program in the last year; not under medical supervision for diabetes; no heart disease or kidney disease; and participants cannot be on psychological or weight loss medications.
  • Spots are filled on a first-come, first-served basis. Call 404-527-7690 or e-mail  ymcamakeachange@gmail.com to register. Go to www.ymcapass.com/makeachangestudy.shtml to learn more about the program and to view a Body Mass Index chart to see if you qualify.

Six months later, he’s lost 20 pounds and several inches from his waistline. Maybe more important, he said the comprehensiveness of the exercise and diet regime he’s learned at the YMCA’s program is distinct from fad diets that have proved successful for him in the past, if temporary.

“I’ve lost weight in other ways – diets that were no carb or all carb – I can’t remember what it was,” said Tench, who works for Gardner, Spencer, Smith, Tench & Jarbeau, P.C., an architectural firm located downtown. “I’d lose 20 to 30 pounds and keep it off for a while and then it would slowly start creeping back on.”

Now, he feels like after completing the six-month program at the local YMCA, he knows more about how to exercise for his health and weight loss goals and understands fundamental nutrition strategies, like counting calories.

Through coaches and group sessions, the unique protocols of the YMCA program tailor individual exercise programs for participants and hold group information sessions related to nutrition and behavioral changes that help enforce discipline.

“I think mentally my diet has changed,” Tench said, noting he has given up cheese and reduced portion sizes. “It’s amazing what you think is a portion versus what a portion ought to be.”

The behavioral aspects of the program, in particular, helped Tench stay on track during the program, and helped him learn what makes him tick, he said.

“I am a guy that needs to be accountable,” he said. “With the coach approach … it gave me more desire to do what I want to do because I’m accountable to someone. I have to treat this like it’s a job and something that I have to get up in the morning and go do.”

James Annesi, director of wellness advancement at YMCA of Metropolitan Atlanta, explained Tench’s six-month program and a similar, upcoming program for those considered obese are building on six years of research.

The study focuses on exercise, nutrition and techniques for self discipline that can reduce emotional eating and other behaviors that lead 65 percent of people to quit an exercise program in three to six months.

Working with the program’s exercise trainers has proven effective at keeping people in the program, while nutrition education and especially behavioral modification makes the course unique, he said.